Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Newman's Essay, Part V: Genuine Developments Contrasted with Corruptions 

Now, some may object that what seems to be a natural development might be a corruption (like a disease or a cancer), which does violence to an organism's nature by reversing (rather than advancing) its natural course. Thus, we must put forth Seven Notes by which to differentiate true, healthy developments from corruptions.
1. Preservation of Type: As in physical or biological growth, the parts and proportions of the developed form, however altered, must correspond to those which belong to its original form (e.g., an adult's limbs correspond to a child's in shape and number, if not in size). This growth may, however, be accompanied by significant external change (such as that of a tree from a seed).

2. Continuity of Principles: Doctrines emerge according to, and are governed and organized by, the innate principles which they embody, in the same way as a geometric shape emerges according to the mathematical formulae which govern that shape. The corruption of a body thus springs from the distortion or abandonment of its principles, when it acts in a manner inconsistent with its character or natural interest, much as Judaism did when it rejected its Messiah.

3. Power of Assimilation: To live is to grow, and to grow is to assimilate and absorb external materials into one's unity, as in the case of plants and animals. An idea exists only in the context of other ideas, which it must absorb to develop. Incorporation of external materials is the only method of growth and success. Rather than be corrupted by external elements, ideas are only attracted to elements to which they already have an antecedent affinity. The more powerful an idea is, the more aggressive and bold it can be in assimilating ideas without having to fear its own corruption.

4. Logical Sequence: All true developments must follow the rules of logic, evolving as naturally as foliage from a tree in the mind of the Church. Thus the apostles, although not fully comprehending the complicated dogmas of later eras, nevertheless knew these truths in the depths of their minds, since they were the logical conclusions of what they knew.

5. Anticipation of Its Future: A true development will be preceded by hints and forewarnings long before it reaches fruition, and only in the fullness of time will it reach perfection, and thus only in the long run will a true development be vindicated. Similarly, whenever a great heresy arises, its seed can be traced back to the errors of its founder, or to the earliest years of development.

6. Conservative Action upon Its Past: While a corruption will reverse, negate, or contradict its own past, a genuine development will merely articulate or illustrate its own past, and will thus resemble a gradual and imperceptible course of change. A doctrine which opposes the doctrines earlier in its development is therefore a corruption, as true developments will only subserve and protect earlier doctrines. Thus, in government, politics, or religion, a true development will be respectful of what has gone before it.

7. Chronic Vigour: As long as an idea remains undisturbed, it naturally flourishes unhindered. Corruption, on the other hand, like revolution, is rapid, violent, and transient. Heresy is always transitory, and this is what distinguishes it from a true development.

# posted by Jamie : 1:50 PM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

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